Karam Festival: Valuing nature, uniting communities in Goa

| OCTOBER 19, 2019, 02:08 AM IST


When people from different parts of India settle in Goa, their beliefs and cultures are bound to be followed in their adopted State. It is then no surprise that people from different communities in India make it a point to assemble and participate in religious and cultural events, uniting them in a State away from theirs.   

“Goa is a hub for migrants and many people have migrated from North and South India like Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkand, Odisha, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh in search of jobs. For them, Goa is a mini-Gulf,” explains Sr Marilou Barbosa, Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM). “Many work as domestic workers in housekeeping, cooking, taking care of elderly and children, tourism, fishing and construction for the development of Goa. They live in an unpleasant environment with little or no basic facilities,” she adds   

Sr Marilou is part of the Missionaries Sisters of the Immaculate Heart Of Mary (ICM) based at Porvorim, who along with two other nuns work with the ‘Goa Domestic Workers and Migrants Forum’, set up in 2012, to take up issues of safe working conditions, decent wages, dignity of labour, social protection, crisis intervention, labour rights, legal aid services and gender violence at work places.   

Besides, the ICM sisters also focus on skill and leadership training, to fight legal battles in favour of domestic workers who are trafficked, participation in local and national level networking to lobby and advocacy with the government.   

“Many Catholic domestic workers and migrants are unable to participate in Masses and local church activities due to language problem. But we thank the Goa archdiocese for organising a Hindi mass for residents of North India, so that they can attend wherever a Hindi Mass is celebrated,” said Sr Marilou.   

Masses in Hindi are celebrated at Fatorda and Sanvordem (first Sunday), Mapusa, Varca, Betalbatim and Fatorpa (second Sunday), Navelim and Calangute (third Sunday), Saligao and Verna (fourth Sunday) and Colem (All Sundays).   

Throwing more light on the Karam festival and its practice in Goa, Sr Sophia Benny, ICM said many families have been living in Goa for many years and their children have adapted to Goan culture. “In order to keep alive the unity and culture, the people of Chota-Nagpur region celebrate Karam Festival every year in Goa. This festival is celebrated on the 11th day of Purnima of Bhado, which falls in September-October.”   

“This is a festival where people believe that the Karam tree protected and saved their ancestors who were hiding in the cave when the king came to kill them. It is also celebrated as festival of agriculture. Remembering this great event, the people celebrate Karam festival,” Sr Sophia informs.   

“On this auspicious day, the Karam Tree is worshipped and considered to be the God of youth and power. The festival also celebrates nature and fertility. The tribes or adivasis celebrate this festival by offering prayers to the Karam Tree. The entire festival revolves around the Karma Tree and many rituals are performed on the day. The history of Karam festival is very rich, which signifies love and dedication to nature,” says Sr Sophia. 

This year, it was decided to have only two common celebrations, one in South Goa and another in North Goa. “In South Goa, Karam festival was celebrated at Navelim and about 1,500 people were present at the event, while in the north, the festival was celebrated at Holy Family Church in Porvorim, with about 800 participating in the celebration,” said Sr Sophia.   

The festival in Porvorim began with a special Mass in Hindi celebrated by Fr Donath (Convenor of Domestic Workers and Migrants), Fr Anil Tirkey, Fr Caetano Fernandes (Porvorim Parish Priest), Fr Maverick Fernandes (Caritas Goa Director), Fr Simon Fernandes SJ, Fr Gregory Noronha CSSR and Fr Benedict MSFS from the Varanasi diocese.   

The ICM Sisters and Religious of Mary Immaculate (RMI) Sisters were also present at the celebration.The priests were welcomed in a symbolic ceremony by washing their hands. As a symbol of gratitude, the Karam Tree branch was brought in the procession. The celebrants were led in a dance procession toward the church.   

As the priests entered the altar, the Karam Tree branch was blessed and the story of Karam was told to the participants, especially the younger generation who miss their culture in Goa. “It was quite amazing to see women and men in traditional dress, dancing with drums and tambourines. The entire two-hour Eucharistic celebration was lively, with hundreds of people participating by singing and dancing,” said Sr Sophia.   

After Mass, there was a short break for snacks and people then gathered around the Porvorim church campus for a two-hour cultural event.   

Guests, priests, religious and invitees were welcomed by a Swagath dance and were presented with bouquets, garlands and turbans. Each group then presented traditional dances and the public performed cultural dances.   

“It was colourful and beautiful to see people dance and keep their culture alive. India is a land of rich culture and spiritual heritage, known for its multicultural, multilingual and multireligious living, reminding us once again of unity in diversity,” Sr Sophia added.  

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